Nigeria’s Revolt Of The Streets

By Richard Mammah

Campaign events for Labour Party candidate Peter Obi are drawing huge crowds across Nigeria. Photo credit This Day

Africa’s most populous nation is five months away from critical national elections that take place from February 2023 with a lot of attention being understandably focused on the contest for the presidency.

At the return of civil rule in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP emerged as the successor government to many years of military rule. And it remained dominant until 2015 when it was unseated by the current ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, thanks in part to some splintering within the PDP.

However, the continued splintering within the PDP and the dismal performance of the ruling APC in the past seven years have presently helped to further expand the active political space and open the door for two other parties to get into stronger reckoning, namely the New Nigerian Peoples Party, NNPP and the Labour Party, LP. And they are both pulling their weight.

While the NNPP is arguably strong in particularly the quite influential North Western State of Kano which is noted for its high voting numbers, LP is significantly pulling its weight across Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt areas.

But even more than geography, seemingly uniting the growing base of the new contenders is the power of the streets, the place where Nigeria’s majority young people play. This is even as the country’s population has been growing in high proportions relative to the economy and indeed the commitment and ability of the players in government to respond to the basic needs for affordable food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education, security, infrastructure and employment that the people are confronted with on a daily basis.

Paradoxically, it is this large mass of dispossessed Nigerians that the ruing APC had appealed to in its push to unseat the PDP in 2015. Its largely uninspiring performance across literally all sectors have however left it with a Pyrrhic victory and confronted with a fresh stirring from the same streets.

Things came to a preliminary head only months after the APC secured a hard-fought second term mandate in 2019 with young Nigerians who had been at the brunt of a rising spate of police brutality taking to the streets. The response of the government to that outburst was largely uncreative and inadequate, and in some instances such as the post-curfew clampdown on peaceful protesters at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos,  clearly outsized. Many of the protest leaders fled into exile and generally, young people shut their ears to the administration and ruling party.

In their massive interest in the voters registration process and their now very widely demonstrated support as was seen Saturday during the Independence Day celebrations for the presidential aspirations of the LP candidate, Mr Peter Obi, the young people are making a very strong statement. And the demographics favour them as two thirds of Nigeria’s population fits into the youthful demographics range.

From Lagos to Warri, Uyo to Kaduna, in tens of cities across Nigeria, supporters of the LP candidate converged in designated locations and on streets and roads across the country. They marched joyously and clamorously, exhibiting their support and affection for their  preferred choice.

But politics requires more than nominal data. It calls up factors like organisation, financial muscle and staying power. However, if the experience of the police brutality protests era are anything to go by, it is clear that these tech-savvy young people can go to considerable lengths to deliver on their set goals.

For the analyst, Segun Bankole, nothing exactly is settled at the moment. However, he concedes that the Labour Party may have secured a headstart at the moment in the political race:

‘You can see the Labour Party is the only party that is relatively free of rancour. The PDP and APC are having internal squabbles that are delaying the smooth take off of their campaign processes. But then these are early days and what more the parties have a longer campaign period in the current era.’

Shedding more light on the battle ahead, Bankole continues:

‘Did you for example see the dirty politics of funds being returned to the party’s coffers by members of the PDP National Working Committee, NWC? NWC members returning alleged strange payments which the party has now ingeniously labelled as monies appropriated for them as housing allowances?. Interesting days are here and I may even hazard that if the big parties do not mend their leaking rooms on time they could very likely be shocked out of the race for the next occupant of the ASO Rock villa in the current dispensation.’





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